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Afternoon Video: Best Education Speech Ever?


Is it the best education speech ever, as one Forbes blogger asserts? I'm not sure. But it's good, and it's recent, and Mike Johnston may be a kind of bridge figure between career educators and reformers (though I'm sure extremists on either end will be disappointed). Forgot where I got this on Twitter -- sorry!


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Nice man -- we need lots of people like this -- but there's far more hope than truth here. Stories nearly as dramatic as these are available by the thousands, but are neither representative nor infinitely replicable. There are no countries where one hundred percent of students graduate from four-year colleges, and there is no set of taxpayers anywhere willing to fund such; and even if such were possible, the enormous increase in the supply of people with baccalaureate degrees would enormously decrease the returns on such investment; and although we would have some significant increase in productivity from all of those college graduates, it is unclear that the returns would justify the enormous investment. In reality, as fine as KIPP schools are, they spend far more than average on their students than is spent on their peers in neighbouring public schools, and yet the average KIPP student does not graduate from college but instead owes thousands of dollars of debt to people of the same social class as Mr. Johnston, and those college dropouts, better off than the high school dropouts they might have been, still have no degree to show for that debt that has been foisted on them by people bent on their own social reproduction.

Johnston is undoubtedly a gifted and charismatic speaker, but his presentation at the Yale SOM in 2011 is a far more substantive and interesting speech. Here's the first part of it:


Thanks, Ken -- interesting, and you're right, an orderly introduction to his thinking -- but I can't for the life of me make out why he thinks talent is equally distributed across the society, when the evidence is so abundant that this is not the case. It might have been, in some theoretical sense, 16 or so years before he started speaking, among his then-present students, and their peers in neighbouring schools; but according to his own theory and experience, what has happened since birth has mattered a great deal in developing that potential, and if the talents were at present equally distributed there would be no point to his project; so he must mean, by "talent", something like "potential". But there is no way to determine if that was true after the fact, either, or is true now, among current babies; and it certainly is not true in today's NFL football, whose teams include no women and where African Americans must be overrepresented by a factor of 50 compared with Asian Americans; and it's troubling to start such an important project with such a shaky assumption.

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